Facebook Twitter Tumblr Close Skip to main content
A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Automakers and Charity

Q: Is it true that the Big Three American automakers made charitable contributions after 9/11, while foreign companies, by and large, did nothing?

A: Actually, foreign car companies gave lots of money, too, despite what an old chain e-mail claims.


Would you please verify or dispute? Thanks

To All,

This one needs to be forwarded to as many people as possible as a reminder of who is actually taking care of business at home.

I could let this one pass by, considering the recent news and events regarding the Big 3, and what’s at stake for current, and future jobs for millions of people, and the risk of losing technological advances, knowledge, and experience of our manufacturing capabilities.


For the record…

Ford, Chrysler and GM’s contributions after 9/11

An interesting commentary…You might find this of interest:

‘CNN Headline News did a short news listing regarding Ford and GM’s contri butions to the relief and recovery efforts in New York and Washington .

The findings are as follows…..

1. Ford- $10 million to American Red Cross matching employee contributions of the same number plus 10 Excursions to NY Fire Dept. The company also offered ER response team services and office space to displaced government employees.

2. GM- $10 million to American Red Cross matching employee contributions of the Same number and a fleet of vans, suv’s, and trucks.

3. Daimler Chrysler- $10 million to support of the children and victims of the Sept. 11 attack.

4. Harley Davidson motorcycles- $1 million and 30 new motorcycles to the New YorkPolice Dept.

5. Volkswagen-Employees and management created a Sept 11 Foundation, funded initial with $2 million, for the assistance of the children and victims of the WTC.

6. Hyundai- $300,000 to the American Red Cross.

7. Audi-Nothing.

8. BMW-Nothing.

9. Daewoo- Nothing.

10. Fiat-Nothing.

11. Honda- Nothing despite boasting of second best sales month ever in August 2001

12. Isuzu- Nothing.

13. Mitsubishi-Nothing..

14. Nissan-Nothing.

15. Porsche-Nothing. Press release with condolences via the Porsche website.

16. Subaru- Nothing.

17. Suzuki- Nothing.

18. Toyota-Nothing despite claims of high sales in July and August 2001.
Condolences posted on the website

Whenever the time may be for you to purchase or lease a new vehicle, keep this information in mind. You might want to give more consideration to a car manufactured by an American-owned and / or American based company. Apart from Hyundai and Volkswagen, the foreign car companies contributed nothing at all to the citizens of the United States …

It’s OK for these companies to take money out of this country, but it is apparently not acceptable to return some in a time of crisis. I believe we should not forget things like this. Say thank you in a way that gets their attention..



This chain e-mail, which first surfaced in the fall of 2001, was resurrected by unknown e-mailers when Congress and President Bush were mulling over a bailout package for the U.S. car manufacturers. (Have we mentioned before that chain e-mails never die? Well, sadly, they don’t.) This one, which was debunked then and now will be debunked yet again, posits that the Big Three gave generously to charities after the terrorists attacks of Sept. 11 – to the tune of $10 million apiece from Ford, GM and Chrysler – while a long list of car manufacturers that aren’t U.S. companies did nothing. The message: Buy American cars because those companies care about Americans while foreign companies don’t. But whoever penned this tirade is just not telling the truth.

The e-mail claims that CNN Headline News reported this list of who gave what, but Nexis and Google searches for such a story turned up nothing. Instead, our first Web search produced a statement from the American Red Cross saying that the e-mail is a myth and giving detailed information on the donations made by both U.S. and foreign car manufacturers for the charity’s work after 9/11. BMW, Mitsubishi and Toyota gave $1 million each to the Red Cross, with BMW also donating 10 SUVs and Toyota and Lexus dealerships in the U.S. raising another $890,000, according to the Red Cross. Honda gave nearly $1 million, and Nissan and Subaru each donated about $500,000. Ford, and GM, meanwhile, each gave $1 million – not 10 – and Harley Davidson chipped in $1 million. DaimlerChrysler didn’t give to the Red Cross, but gave $10 million to help children who lost parents in the attacks.

This bit of fact-checking – which took us all of 30 seconds – reinforces what we’ve stressed to our readers before: Why forward along a suspicious-sounding tale, when you likely could bat it down with a quick Internet search? Using Google in this case takes less time than sending a bogus e-mail to several friends.

And There’s More …

If one official source – the very charitable organization that supposedly received (or didn’t) the donations in question – isn’t enough to convince some that the e-mail is false, we can offer more evidence. The magazine Automotive News reported in its Oct. 1, 2001, issue, that "[a]utomakers, suppliers and dealer groups have responded to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks by donating nearly $30 million to relief efforts," including a $1 million donation by Nissan, which also said it would match employee giving. The article gave a list of companies and their donations, which included $1 million from BMW AG’s U.S. group and $30,000 from BMW Manufacturing, $2 million from Volkswagen of America, $1 million from Toyota, $1 million from Mitsubishi, $300,000 from Hyundai, $500,000 from Fuji Heavy Industries (the maker of Subaru), $100,000 from Audi of America, and $7,000 from Izusu. American Honda, as well as others mentioned, gave vehicles and generators, and the company matched employee contributions.

The article also noted that a chain e-mail going around was wrong: "An e-mail message that circulated through auto industry computers across the nation last week took some import-brand automakers to task for failing to give. That list, purportedly drawn from Web sites, did not include many companies that are donating."

The e-mail does give Volkswagen credit for creating a foundation, launched with $2 million, to help children affected by the 9/11 attacks. However, it fails to mention that the Volkswagen Group includes Audi. Instead, the e-mail says Audi, which also contributed $100,000 to the New York Fire Fighters 9-11 Disaster Relief Fund, gave "nothing."

Snopes.com also dug up various press releases from carmakers announcing contributions, including Honda, which was falsely criticized by this e-mail for giving "nothing despite boasting of second best sales month ever in August 2001." Honda said that American Honda Motor Co., Honda of America Mfg. and sister companies in North America had given a little more than $1.1 million in cash donations and matching funds mainly to the United Way of New York "September 11 Fund" and the American Red Cross. (Note that checks out with the Red Cross, which said Honda gave the charity nearly $1 million.) Honda donated all-terrain vehicles, water pumps and generators, too.

Porsche announced it would donate 20 percent of the proceeds from its 50-State Drive for Hope event to the New York Fire Fighters 9-11 Disaster Relief Fund. The event was created to benefit The Hope Foundation, a cancer research organization in the U.S. Subaru, and its parent company Fuji Heavy Industries, said that its cash and equipment donations totaled about $1 million. Suzuki also announced that it had given SUVs and ATVs and employee and company matching funds of $62,000. And finally, Toyota – which also faced stern criticism in this bogus e-mail for giving nothing "despite claims of high sales in July and August 2001" – gave the Red Cross $1 million, from Toyota Motor Corp. and its companies in the U.S., and said it would match employee giving. The Red Cross, in fact, confirmed that Toyota gave a million bucks.

It’s True: Bankrupt Company Gives Nothing!

This e-mail may well be right about Daewoo Motor Co.’s failure to donate to charities after Sept. 11. We couldn’t find any evidence that Daewoo gave money. Perhaps that was due to the fact that South Korean Daewoo went bankrupt in November 2000 and had been under court receivership. In fact, on Sept. 20, 2001, (nine days after the terrorist attacks) GM signed a nonbinding agreement to acquire the struggling company, after a year of negotiations, according to various press reports.

An Associated Press report on Dec. 17, 2001, called Daewoo "a major headache for the South Korean government" and said its total debt was estimated to be more than $17 billion. The deal was eventually finalized in April 2002.

Another version of this e-mail says that Aston Martin gave nothing. That company was acquired by Ford in 1987. And the American-through-and-through Ford gave $1 million to the Red Cross, as some versions of this e-mail happily, and accurately, noted. We could not find any news reports or releases about Fiat donating money to charities after 9/11. It’s worth noting that Fiat doesn’t make any cars in the U.S., although there are several Fiat Group Ferrari dealerships across the country.

The e-mail, though, seems aimed at car companies that supposedly make lots of money here and carry those dollars offshore, stingily not giving back to the U.S. "It’s OK for these companies to take money out of this country," says the e-mail, "but it is apparently not acceptable to return some in a time of crisis." We think it’s not acceptable to spread bogus information over the Internet – especially when it’s so easy to prove a suspect e-mail to be false.

– Lori Robertson


Myths and Facts: How Your Money is Being Spent.” American Red Cross. Redcross.org, 31 Oct. 2001, accessed 22 Dec. 2008.

Kachadourian, Gail and John Stoll. “Automakers, supplies, dealers give to relief efforts.” Automotive News, 1 Oct. 2001.

“Audi of America, Inc. Donates $100,000 to NY Fire Fighters Fund As Part of American Le Mans Series Charity Campaign.” PR Newswire, 28 Sept. 2001.

Financial News. Associated Press Worldstream, 17 Dec. 2001.

Lee, Soo-Jeong. “General Motors signs agreement to acquire bankrupt Daewoo Motor.” Associated Press, 20 Sept. 2001.

Honda Responds. Honda Family of Companies. Press release, 2001.

Porsche Fights Cancer with 50-State ‘Drive for Hope’ Cross Country Trek.” Porsche press release, 3 Oct. 2001.

Subaru’s Response to September 11.” Subaru press release, 2001.

Toyota to Match Employee Contributions to American Red Cross.” Toyota press release, 28 Sept. 2001.

Schuman/Bupyeong, Michael. “Making Cars by Making Nice.” Time, 9 Sept. 2002.

Feast, Richard. “Aston Martin’s Mission: To Be Ford’s Ferrari.” New York Times, 19 Nov. 1999.